Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Un-Friending

There are about a thousand big, important things; worries, fears, responsibilities, obligations and debts going on in my life. This story is about none of those.
I’m not sure why this thing has bothered me so much, but it pretty much consumed my thoughts during my daily commute a few days ago.. I’m writing this now to try to understand, through verbalizing it, why it weighed so heavily. True, the long daily commute is usually boring and my mind typically wanders aimlessly, pointlessly and sometimes obsessively, but it’s usually about movies, work, books, a family situation, or women’s beach volleyball.
The other night I saw a status update on a popular social networking site that I’ll refer to only as FB, since I certainly don’t want to piss those people off. The post was from a lady, a FB ‘friend’ from my original hometown, I’ll refer to her as ‘J’. I haven’t actually spoken to her, face to face, since grade school or junior high. I typically accept/send friend requests from people there I barely know just to reconnect with them and hear the voices (metaphorically) I grew up with. I hadn’t even chatted with her on FB very often.
Whether or not I ever had a childhood crush on J is completely irrelevant. That’s because I had childhood crushes on lots of girls back in my hometown in my pure, innocent and handsome youth. However, hardly any of them were aware of it since I never actually worked up the courage to approach them. I had a couple of girlfriends, sure, but only if they approached me first. I never, ever made initial contact that I can recall. You can ask Angel about this comically odd quirk in my character, she’s intimately familiar with it. It’s frankly quite confounding how I ever ended up getting married at all, much less three times. Just dumb luck I suppose. I have always expressed my romantic interest in someone by completely avoiding them and never, ever talking to them unless they expressed an interest first. This, I have since learned, is not exactly a brilliant or highly effective dating strategy. Anyway I’m not going to confirm or deny that a childhood crush on J ever actually occurred, it’s just not important for this story.
J posted a photo of a young girl and an adult lady playing together. J commented that this lady was the child’s “favorite lawyer”.
I found that amusing, and was pretty sure that’s how it was intended, so I commented:
 “I’m struggling with the notion of a favorite lawyer. You know, a cheap poke at the legal profession.
Later she commented back:
lol! . . . Well Dennis I'm engaged to a lawyer. . .”    (Please take note of the ‘lol’)
An hour or so later I commented back, in the spirit of what I then assumed to be light-hearted repartee:
“Engaged to a lawyer? Well, desperation is a very strong emotion.”
I think this is about the point where it started going wrong. Though at the time I simply felt it was a continuation of the ‘lol’ banter. My intended meaning was that the only reason that anyone would actually want to date a lawyer (snake, shark, shylock) would be sheer desperation, a complete lack of options, implying that lawyers are really, really terrible people, you know, like Mark Twain and Will Rogers, et al used to joke about.

My sweatshirt, see explanation below.
Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.” - Will Rogers –

"Lawyers are like other people--fools on the average; but it is easier for an ass to succeed in that trade than any other." - Mark Twain –

“Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.-

“The trouble with law is lawyers.” - Clarence Darrow -

“A countryman between 2 Lawyers, is like a fish between two cats.” - Benjamin Franklin –

See? I’m not alone in published disdain of the profession, in fact, I’m in company with some of the greatest minds in the country (and some lawyers).
So this is what I was going for, that’s all. I did not fear insulting any lawyers, J’s fiance especially, since lawyer jokes are quite prevalent even, and maybe especially, amongst lawyers themselves. They’re benign, like husband/wife jokes. Or IT guy jokes.

Then J wrote back:
“"desperation? Oh i'm not desperate."

I’m not seeing a problem here, is it just me?
Then a strange thing happened, another lady from my hometown, I’ll call her ‘K’ (deliberately Kafkaesque), again one that I may or may not have had a grade school crush on but have not seen or spoken to in several decades, posted this:
 "Ok, this sista doesn't like that "desperation" remark! Not all attorneys are dirty dealers Dennis, especially this one. He is a great guy and if you knew Jeannie you would know there is nothing "desperate" about her."

I optimistically took that as a snarky remark, on the same level as my original comments. Was I wrong?
J added: "Well thx sista! You have my back!!"
Still not seeing a real problem, but just in case, I added: “Where’s that sarcasm emoticon when you need one?”  Indicating that I wasn’t really being serious, or so I thought.

K apparently didn’t care much for that:
"Sarcasm doesn't fit the situation J is going thru right now w/her dad and decisions she is having to make. You may have been trying to be funny but it didn't work. The only thing she is desperate about right now is praying she doesn't lose her dad."

Somehow this had gone from a to b to c to ATTACK WITH FIRE!!!!
I had to think about this for a few minutes. It wasn’t like I was sitting in front of the computer all evening anyhow, I was just walking through and checking it occasionally.

So later, after  I’d thought about it, wondered how it had gotten so out of hand, I decided to start clarifying and possibly offering apologies. In situations like this, where I really don’t have a clue as to what the actual problem is, especially with women, I tend to just assume there’s something I need to apologize for. That’s just the way I was raised.
But I couldn’t. I was unable to locate the thread again. I trembled, knowing what this likely meant, so I confirmed it. I had been un-friended by J.
I’ve been un-friended before. Usually it’s because I made a reasonable but slightly snarky (though not personal) comment about someone’s partisan political statements and usually only if they’re one of these people that paste/link dozens of dubious and trite talking points, ad nauseum. You know these people. In my mind if that’s all they do, regurgitate the pundits, then they have no actual friendship value, especially if one little rebuttal comment from me makes them dive for the un-friend button. I’ve never felt bad about any of those lost ‘friends’.
But this particular event hit me sideways.
I knew that J had been through some rough times with family lately, as has K, as has just about everyone in our age group, including myself. I was simply not sure what that had to do with this particular conversation.
Certainly my wisecracks were not the wittiest lawyer jokes ever told, (feel free to object) but I’ve never claimed to be a professional comedian. So maybe they weren’t especially funny, okay, but geez, why the vitriol?
So in an unabashed third-grade-style, irrational and hyper-sensitive tantrum (hissy-fit) I immediately un-friended K.  Nyah, nyah, nyah! (blows raspberries)
I quickly felt foolish about that, succumbing to that juvenile level of behavior, but I was actually a little upset.
I don’t claim to be to everyone’s liking. There are plenty of people that seem to want nothing at all to do with me, and that’s just in my own family. (that’s a joke, I simply can’t help myself, it's like a disease.) I know not everyone gets me or my dark, snarky sense of humor. But that’s usually straightened out after a while, once the relationship gets flushed out. I know I’ve offended people in the past, though rarely deliberately, so I do try to edit myself, but  the process is of course not 100% effective.
It's been a few days now, I've had other issues and events come and go in my life adding some much-needed perspective to the whole tawdry affair. (not that I ever wanted to have tawdry affairs with either J or K, it's just a figure of speech, I swear.) I've done nothing about it except to write this thing out, and that's probably all I will ever do.
I will miss these 'friends' a little, for a while. I enjoyed following their regular chatter about their families and triumphs and trials. Not that I could do much about them, nor was I in any small way a part of them, but it was part of the storyline, the backdrop, the forest beyond the trees in my own life.
I've actually learned very little from this whole episode, perhaps there's a lesson there somewhere, but the only one I seem to be able to figure out is that some people have incredibly short fuses and given the choice between victorious righteous indignation and giving someone they barely know the slightest benefit of the doubt, they boldly choose the former. Maybe I don't want them as 'friends' anyhow, too risky, too fragile.
  There, I've vented. Bonus: There's a bunch of ladies in my hometown that are now aware that I may or may not have had a crush on them a long time ago. I imagine them now, seeing this, wondering... what might have been, what dreams  could have been realized, had they only been a little bolder.
* The sweatshirt (photo)
A true, living, breathing friend had this pink sweatshirt made for me back in 2007. The quote on it was taken from an instant message conversation we were having in response to something she had said that I'd subsequently made fun of.
"I am a clown, I seek the laughter and I'm willing to insult, infuriate and injure anything and anyone to succeed"
I thought of this shirt/quote as I was writing this piece. Partially to point out the long term nature of my disease, and partially to prove that some people do actually  appreciate my humor.